The main quality models

The quality models most often met in Europe are listed below.

BS, EN, ISO standards

These externally-accredited standards are administered by public bodies, such as the British Standards Institute (BSI).

ISO 9001

This is the international standard for quality improvement. With origins in engineering, it has been developed over the years to more readily accommodate the needs of service industries. Published by the International Standards Organisation, one ancestor was the old British Standard BS5750.

It is in essence procedures-based, and some consultants describe it as ‘say what you do, do what you say’. That was certainly true of the old standard and articulated the long-held criticism that the standard can merely codify bad practice. To some degree, it still applies, although the new standard reduces the documentary requirements, compared with the previous version. It still remains true that if you want genuine progress rather than just the gong, you should improve the working practices rather than just document them.

Partly to counter criticism, the standard has been expanded to cover eight quality management principles:

  • Customer focus
  • Leadership
  • Process approach (cross-functional)
  • Systems approach (combining processes into systems)
  • Continuous improvement
  • Fact-based approach
  • Supplier relationships.

Its strong point is discipline and consistency, though care is needed to prevent it becoming a bureaucratic disincentive to innovation and change. Some regard it as a sound first step on the journey to excellence, and you may need to use it in your industry or business sector, just to stay in the game. Whether this is so or not depends on the norms.

Other standards

ISO 9004

This is the twin of ISO 9001, covering the system for managing the quality improvement system itself.

ISO 14001

This is the international standard for Environmental Management Systems (EMS).

BS 5701

This is a guide to quality control and performance improvement, using qualitative data.

In addition

There are many other standards for particular aspects of economic activity, such as construction, fire, health & safety and so on, plus specialist variants, such as the motor industry adaptation QS9000.

For further information visit the BSI website.

EFQM Business Excellence Model

This is a self-assessment tool with the option of external assessment. Competitive awards are available. It is based on five enablers of excellence (Leadership, People, Policy & Strategy, Partnerships & Resources, and Processes) and management of four results areas (People, Customers, Societal, Key Performance). Derivatives have been developed for

  • SMEs
  • The Public Sector
  • Special interests, such as Diversity.

In general, EFQM interprets quality more widely than ISO and allows greater flexibility because it is not a standard. There are, however, obvious commonalities. For further information, visit the EFQM website.

® The EFQM model is a registered trademark

Six Sigma

This approach was developed by Motorola in the late 1980s and is now used in many manufacturing and service industries. The name comes from the statistical symbol for standard deviation, and in effect means ‘close to perfection’. Its key themes are customer focus, data-driven management, process focus and improvement (using a development of Deming’s Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle with Statistical Process Control, to reduce variations), cross-functional collaboration, and a policy of aiming for perfection but taking risks.

It adopts Juran’s project-by-project approach to process improvement. Projects are selected on the basis of whether they are Critical to Quality (CTQ) from the customer’s point of view. Each project is supposed to produce bottom-line cash savings, with process measures being taken before and after the project. The approach tends to be run by people qualified in the method, and implementation and people issues should be seen as important as the methodological tools. For further information, visit the Motorola website.

Sector-specific models

Models of this type or adaptations of existing models have been developed in some quarters to address perceived inadequacies of the generic models. For example, there is an SME version of EFQM and a motor industry adaptation of ISO 9000 (QS9000) has emerged, while in primary health care the Royal College of General Practitioners has its own model. It would not be sensible to try to list them all, or even relevant websites, as no list could be exhaustive. If you are in a specific sector, try either the website of your own professional body or the BSI website.